Spain votes to extend coronavirus lockdown for 15 more days

Madrid, Apr 22 (efe-epa).- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration won broad support in Parliament on Wednesday for a 15-day extension of its lockdown measures, although during the debate it faced harsh criticism from opposition groups over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Sanchez’s Socialists (PSOE); its coalition partner, the left-wing Unidas Podemos; the conservative Popular Party (PP), the center-right Ciudadanos (C’s), the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and nearly all of the minority parties voted in favor of the measure, which passed by a tally of 269-60.

The much smaller number of “no” votes in the Congress of Deputies, Spain’s lower house, came from the far-right Vox party, pro-Catalan group CUP and pro-Catalan independence party JxCat.

Spaniards are in their sixth week of mandatory lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of infection and ease the pressure on the health service.

Spain’s population is only allowed to leave their homes to travel to work, buy food or medicine or go to the bank.

All of the opposition parties voting in support of extending the lockdown until May 9 were critical – and occasionally scathing – in their assessment of the Sanchez administration’s management of the pandemic in Spain.

The PP’s leader, Pablo Casado, asked the prime minister not to lie and to acknowledge his mistakes, while the PNV criticized the way in which some decisions have been made.

The latter referred in particular to the government’s having initially said Tuesday that children under 14 (who have been forced to remain indoors during the lockdown) would only be able to leave their homes starting Sunday to accompany their parents on essential errands.

But after criticism from parent groups, health organizations and left- and right-wing political parties, including Podemos, Health Minister Salvador Illa reported a change in criteria so that children will be able to go for accompanied walks starting April 26.

The C’s said their support for the extension should not be considered a blank check, while other parties such as Mas Pais and Coalicio Compromis demanded a stronger fiscal plan to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis and efforts to bolster the public health care system, respectively.

During the debate, which began at 9 am, Sanchez said a third extension of the lockdown was necessary as it prudently continues to carry out its fight against Covid-19.

In that regard, he said he foresees a slow and gradual de-escalation of the coronavirus mitigation measures starting in the second half of May.

One aspect that nearly all speakers stressed was the need for political pact for the country’s reconstruction after the coronavirus crisis is over.

Both the PSOE and the PP want the parliamentary committee that will spearhead that effort to start its work next week.

Wednesday’s vote marks the third parliamentary extension to the lockdown since March 15, when the government decreed a nationwide state of alarm to slow the spread of coronavirus cases.

The number of new infections has leveled off over the past week in Spain, which had around 4,200 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday and 435 new Covid-19-related deaths.

The country has reported a total of roughly 208,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak (second only to the United States worldwide) and 21,717 deaths attributed to the pandemic (behind only the US and Italy).



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